Are there allergens specific to other towns in Arizona?


by Geraldine Freeman, M.D.

The many small rural towns in Arizona vary by location and elevation. Several still have working copper smelters (whose sulfur dioxide pollutant output has been reduced by technological improvements); there are coal-burning plants in the Four Corners area, St. Johns, Joseph City, and Page. These are monitored by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and are much improved in air quality.

Riparian (river bed) growth of mesquite, tamarisk (salt cedar), cottonwood, and sycamore is abundant. Mulberry trees, planted throughout the state for shade up to 5,000 feet elevation, produce pollen in spring. Areas of juniper produce significant pollen problems from December to early spring. Pine pollen is seldom allergenic.

Bermuda grass, both in lawns and escaped from cultivation, thrives up to 5,000 feet elevation. Sagebrush is found on the Colorado River plateau in northeastern high country. The desert type is Sonoran, featuring mesquite, palo verde, and non-allergenic cacti.

Ajo. Small desert community at 1,500 feet elevation in southwestern Arizona. Previously a copper town, now largely a retirement community. Native plants include desert ragweeds, pigweed, saltbushes, cottonwood trees, mesquite, and ironwood. Imported plants include mulberry, pepper, olive, and juniper trees, and Bermuda grass.

Casa Grande. Low desert agricultural community and commerce center one hour south of Phoenix. Agricultural products include cotton, alfalfa, wheat, and sorghum; there is a cotton gin in nearby Coolidge. Native plants include ragweeds, saltbushes, pigweed, tumbleweed, mesquite, cottonwood, tamarisk (salt cedar), and Johnson grass. Bermuda grass and elm, mulberry, and a few olive trees are planted in the town.

Colorado River Basin. Parker, at 450 feet elevation, grows alfalfa year round, and features Bermuda grass and a variety of weeds, native cottonwoods and mesquite, and planted mulberry and olive trees. Lake Havasu City, at 500 feet, has Bermuda grass (including golf courses), weeds, and pepper and smoke trees. Both areas are known for water recreation on the Colorado River in west central Arizona.

Cottonwood and Camp Verde. Featuring riparian growth along the Verde River, at 3,200 to 3,500 feet in central Arizona. Juniper is common. Camp Verde has pecan orchards; both areas have Bermuda and blue grass, a variety of weeds including saltbush and tumbleweed, nettles, and elm trees. Ailanthus (tree of heaven), ash, oak, and pine trees grow in nearby Jerome, at 5,000 feet.

Globe-Miami. At 3,500 feet, middle chaparral desert in central Arizona, with copper mines and smelter. Desert ragweeds, saltbushes, pigweed, tumbleweeds, box elder, cottonwood, elm, junipers, and ailanthus (tree of heaven) are native. Kentucky blue and Bermuda grass, and mulberry trees, are planted. The surrounding country grows juniper and oak; nearby canyons support a variety of trees.

Grand Canyon. The South Rim visitor area, at 6,000 feet elevation 90 miles northwest of Flagstaff, is in mixed oak-pine-juniper forest, with sagebrush and other weeds and wild grasses.

Kingman. 3,300 feet elevation in northwestern Arizona. Imported plants include Bermuda and Kentucky blue grass, and mulberry and other trees. Natives plants include ragweeds, pigweed, tumbleweed, saltbushes, cottonwood, junipers, and mesquite. Utah juniper grows in the nearby mountains.

Navajo and Hopi Reservations. Large, sparsely-occupied territory in the northeastern part of the state, much of it at 6,000 feet or higher. A variety of grasses, and often juniper, grow on this high desert plateau. Willows are planted for shade in some communities. There is open-pit coal mining in operation.

Page. A small community at 4,300 feet on Lake Powell, on the Arizona-Utah border. A coal-burning plant, hydroelectric power generation, and recreation on the lake and Colorado River. There are lawns of Bermuda, blue, rye, and fescue grass. The great variety of planted trees includes Russian olive (not a true olive). Sagebrush and rabbitbrush are natives.

Payson. 5,100 feet in east central Arizona, popular for retirement. Located in juniper-oak-pinion pine forest, with a variety of grasses, weeds, and ash and box elder trees.

Prescott. In juniper forest at 5,200 feet in the central Arizona mountains. There is a variety of weeds, lawn and wild grasses including Johnson grass, and trees including elm, box elder, cottonwood, oak, mesquite, mulberry, sycamore, and Russian olive.

Sedona. On Oak Creek, at 4,500 feet in central Arizona. Normal riparian growth, with hardwoods (alder, maple, black walnut, ash) in the upper canyon. The forest is heavily juniper and the related Arizona cypress, and sycamores near the creek in open terrain and near the town. Bermuda, blue, and wild grasses; mesquite, cottonwood, and a variety of weeds.

White Mountains. Show Low, Lakeside, Pinetop, and Springerville are located at 6,300 to 7,000 feet in the mountains of east central Arizona. There is a variety of wild and pasture grasses, pine-oak-juniper-aspen forests, agriculture and cattle, sagebrush and weeds. Some riparian areas—the source of the Little Colorado River.

Winslow. 4,800 feet, 60 miles east of Flagstaff in east central Arizona. A rural town in the Little Colorado River basin, along Interstate 40, previously a railroad center. Bermuda, blue, and wild grasses; various planted and wild trees (ash, box elder, elm, tamarisk, cottonwood, juniper, poplar, Russian olive, willow) and weeds (pigweed, ragweeds, tumbleweed, and sagebrush).

Yuma. A small, growing city in southwestern Arizona, at 200 feet elevation, on the Colorado River. There are citrus groves, farming, a Marine base, and Bermuda grass farms and lawns in the area. Olive, mulberry, privet, pecan, willow, and ash trees are planted here, and mesquite, tamarsk, and cottonwood are native. Low desert weeds appear in the spring and fall.

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Allergy and the Environment